Home Sweet Home
So, you fell in love with a colorful Betta at a local fish shop and want to bring him home. What are you going to need to keep your new friend happy and healthy in your home? This article will show you how to properly set up and maintain a tank for your Betta. What to feed and water parameters are discussed on the Food and Water page. All the photos used to illustrate products are links and you can click them if you are interested in purchasing that product or just getting more information about them.
A Place of My Own
After you decide on a tank the next thing you want to get is a heater. Bettas like water temperatures around 80*-82*.Water in a bowl tends to run about 4* cooler than your room temperature. With average home temps around 72*, you can see Bettas kept without a heater are going to have water temps in the upper 60's, much too cold for your tropical Betta. Cooler temperatures also make a Betta prone to diseases such as Velvet . A small watt heater that has a variable setting will get your water to the ideal range. When looking at heaters you may want to consider some bells and whistles like auto shut off if the heater is removed from the water while still plugged in. Glass heaters can shatter if removed from water then put back into it, even if only out a few seconds. They may also over heat when out of water, so the auto shut off is a good way to keep from accidentally losing your heater. Another consideration is a protective covering over the glass to avoid impacts shattering the glass. All these "upgrades" add a little to the overall price of your heater, but even with all the extras you should find a suitable heater for $15-$20. If you can not get a variable temperature heater you can often get smaller watt heaters that will keep the water 78*. Though they will not get the water to the ideal range, they are perfectly fine as they will keep the water warmer than room temp.
Cycling Your Tank
Developing these bacteria to breakdown the ammonia and nitrite takes time and is called cycling your tank. This "cycle" can take 1-2 months to get balanced and complete. So in the beginning you will need to do regular water changes to keep the water healthy and prevent stress and disease. For a deeper discussion of what goes on when you cycle, see our Nitrogen Cycle page.
Testing Water Parameters
Initially the ammonia level will rise and will start to feed nitrifying bacteria. Your water changes will keep the water safe and allow these bacteria to reproduce to the point that any ammonia produced is quickly turned to nitrite. Then you will see the ammonia is holding steady and the nitrite is beginning to rise. This tells you that you now have some beneficial bacteria established that is converting the ammonia to the nitrites. Now another type of bacteria is being fed and will need to increase in numbers to handle the rising nitrite levels. Again, more water changes until it too will hold steady.
When the nitrites start to rise you also want to start testing for the nitrates. This is not as toxic as the other two, but you still do not want high numbers here. Again, your water changes should reduce the amount of nitrates in the water as well as "refresh" it's chemical makeup. Regular testing of your water parameters will tell you where you are in your cycle. In time the tank will balance with bacteria developed to handle your typical bio load. You should be able to go a week and and have both ammonia and nitrites barely register. Then you are changing out water and removing the nitrates as well as bringing back elements in your water that are depleted like trace minerals. It is still a good habit to test your water parameters when you do your water changes. They will alert you to unhealthy conditions that may weaken your fish and open them up to disease. If you visit any forum on fish or Bettas, and look for help with a sick fish, the first thing anybody wants to know is your water parameters.
A really good video on how to use a test kit.
Once you get all the basics necessary to provide a home for your Betta, you can then choose the decor that appeals to you. Maybe you like natural river stones and some silk plants. Or your daughter wants a pink tank to match her room and show off her blue Betta. Almost anything goes in this area. Things to consider when choosing your decor:
- *** Watch for rough edges. If plants or other items are very rough it may tear at your Bettas long fins.
- *** If you choose rocks from out doors you want to make sure and wash them thoroughly. And don't choose the rocks from an area that may have been sprayed to kill weeds. Also, some rocks, such as limestone will leach into the rater and increase hardness, Choose more inert stones.
- *** Pieces of natural drift wood can also be used. With some driftwood it may leach tannin into the water and give it a nice amber color. These tannins will also naturally lower your pH. You can either presoak the tannin out of the wood or just use water changes to keep it under control. Again, look for smooth edges so as not to tear the Bettas fins.
Now that you have everything to provide a good home for your Betta, take a quick trip over to the Food and Water page and find out a little more about water and also what foods will make the best choice for your fish.
Tank Mates for Your Betta
Though aggressive to their own kind, Bettas are peaceful fish and they do get along with other fish as well as snails and shrimp. Apple snails are a good choice as tank mates because they are great scavengers and will eat excess food and control algae. These snails come in a variety of colors and shell patterns and can get the size of a baseball. If these can not be found, any other type of snail is a good addition as well. Bettas tend to ignore the snails, but some Bettas seem to enjoy pecking at the larger snails as the climb the glass until they come loose and fall to the bottom of the tank. I think it becomes an amusing game to the fish and does not seem to bother the snail at all.
Shrimp are becoming very popular to keep and they also make nice tank mates for Bettas. Though often sold as live food for larger fish, Ghost Shrimp are neat pets and you can see right through their clear bodies. Red Cherry Shrimp are also favorites and can get up to 1 inch long. Since they produce little to no waste, you can have several shrimp in with your Betta. The shrimp will also reproduce, giving you some to share with friends or maybe trade to your local fish shop for more fish supplies. If you decide to keep shrimp, make sure there is plenty of cover and keep the Betta fed, of he mak deicde to snack on your shrimp.
Otocinclus Catfish, or otos for short, are another bottom feeder like the cories. However, they are much harder to acclimate because they are not bred in captivity but are caught from the wild. This make them more sensitive to any changes in water conditions. But once your oto survives the first 1-2 weeks, they should live for a long time provided that the water remains stable and clean. Peaceful and easy going they make good tank mates for your Bettas.
Fish That Do Not Do Well With Bettas:
- *** Many of the tetras because they swim fast and like to nip and tear a Bettas long finnage.
- *** Goldfish because they are cold water fish and prefer water that is much higher in pH than your Betta would like. They are also very messy and need good filtration. Filtration for a Goldfish would be too vigorous for a Betta.
- *** Guppies also do not tend to be good companions. They, like the Goldfish, prefer water that has a higher pH and their bright colors often make them a target for an aggressive Betta.